Author Archives: churchc

Carbon monoxide poisoning following use of a water pipe/hookah

Dtsch Arztebl Int 2014; 111(40): 674-9;   DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2014.0674

Background: Water pipe (hookah) smoking has become a common activity in Germany, particularly among adolescents and young adults; in 2011, its lifetime prevalence was as high as 68.8%. Similar trends can be seen in other European countries. Water-pipe smokers are exposed to the same health-endangering substances as cigarette smokers, and the inhaled amount of carbon monoxide (CO) can be as much as ten times as high. In CO intoxication, carboxyhemoglobin is formed and causes direct injury at the cellular level, leading to hypoxia and nonspecific neurological manifestations. There have only been ten reported cases around the world of CO intoxication due to the use of a water pipe, and none of these were fatal. It should be recalled, however, that accidental CO intoxication is common and is associated with high morbidity and mortality.

Case presentation and course: We present a series of four young adults, aged 16 to 21, three of whom were hospitalized because of transient unconsciousness. The carboxyhemoglobin (CO-Hb) content of the blood in the symptomatic patients ranged from 20.1% to 29.6%, while the asymptomatic patient had a CO-Hb content of 16.7%. Water-pipe smoking was the cause of CO intoxication in all four cases. The CO-Hb values were successfully brought down by the administration of highly concentrated oxygen and all patients were discharged in asymptomatic condition.

Conclusion: This case series reveals that CO intoxication due to water-pipe smoking is probably more common than is generally realized. Emergency room staff should be aware of this problem and inquire specifically about water-pipe smoking in patients with nonspecific neurological manifestations.

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Cardiogenic shock after use of fluoroamphetamine confirmed with serum and urine levels

Clinical Toxicology  Online on October 28, 2014;  (doi:10.3109/15563650.2014.974262)

Context. 4-Fluoroamphetamine (4-FA) is a para-substituted phenethylamine-type synthetic stimulant that has in recent years gained popularity through internet blogs and market share according to confiscated drug data. No serious toxicity has previously been reported. We report a case of a young man who developed severe toxicity and cardiogenic shock after using 4-FA, with laboratory confirmation. Case details. An 18-year-old man presented to the emergency department with vomiting, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and altered mental status about 5 h after using a new and unfamiliar street drug. Two days prior, he had received naltrexone intramuscular injection as part of an opioid addiction treatment program and was taking fluoxetine and trazodone. Five hours after presentation, he developed cardiogenic shock requiring intraaortic balloon pump, inotropic and ventilatory support. An echocardiogram showed left ventricular (LV) hypokinesia, sparing the apex and ejection fraction (EF) = 10%. Comprehensive toxicology serum testing revealed FA, naproxen, trazodone, and cotinine. The 4-FA urine level was 64,000 ng/ml and serum level was 118 ng/ml. With slow recovery, the patient was discharged after 2 weeks of hospitalization.

DISCUSSION. Although no previously reported 4-FA clinical poisoning cases have been published for comparison, by examining 4-FA pharmacology compared with other stimulant drugs, and given this patient’s presentation and echocardiogram suggestive of reverse takotsubo cardiomyopathy we suspect the toxic mechanism was an acute cardiomyopathy caused by 4-FA catecholamine-induced myocarditis and/or small vessel myocardial ischemia.

CONCLUSION. Recreational use of 4-FA may present with life threatening toxicity including cardiomyopathy, cardiogenic shock, and pulmonary edema.

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Fatal alfentanil/morphine mixture: A case report

Toxicologie Analytique et Clinique Available online 17 September 2014;  DOI: 10.1016/j.toxac.2014.08.002

A 23 year-old man, health care professional, was found dead in the toilets of a local hospital. Medical supplies for injection (syringe, needles) were found near the body at the scene, in a waste. External body examination revealed a single point of injection located at the left elbow crease and the lack of any traumatic injury. During examination, the pathologist collected cardiac blood and urine. These specimens were tested for ethanol, volatiles, pharmaceuticals and drugs of abuse, using headFspace GC/FID and GC/MS, Elisa, LC-DAD, GC/MS and LC/MS/MS. Ethanol tested positive in blood (0.99 g/L) and urine (0.19 g/L). Using a dedicated LC/MS/MS procedure, alfentanil was identified in both blood (19 ng/mL) and urine (25 ng/mL). Morphine was identified in blood, at 36 ng/mL (free morphine) and 39 ng/mL (total morphine). In urine, total morphine concentration was 81 ng/mL. No other drug was detected. Given the ratio (0.92) free morphine to total morphine in blood and the low concentrations of both alfentanil and morphine in urine, it was considered that the death occurred rapidly after drugs administration. The manner of death was considered as acute intoxication of both alfentanil and morphine, in presence of ethanol.

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Examination of the role of the combination of alcohol and cannabis in South Australian road crashes

Traffic Injury Prevention  Online 6 October 2014;  DOI: 10.1080/15389588.2014.969804

Objectives: The aim of the present study was to examine the role of cannabis in road crashes in South Australia, with a particular focus on the extent to which crashes involving cannabis also involve alcohol.

Methods: Hospital data, police-reported crash data, and the results of forensic tests of blood samples for drugs and alcohol were collected for 1,074 crash participants (drivers or motorcyclists) admitted to hospital. A sample of 135 Coroner’s reports was also examined to determine the role of alcohol and cannabis in fatal crashes.

Results: The three years of linked data for hospital admission cases revealed that alcohol played a greater role in road crashes than other drugs. Approximately one in five drivers or motorcyclists had a BAC above the legal limit of 0.05. Routine testing for cannabis, methamphetamine and MDMA revealed a drug positive rate of approximately one in ten of those tested, with over half of these positive to cannabis. More than a third of cannabis cases also involved alcohol. The majority of those who were positive to alcohol had a BAC above 0.15 g/100ml. BACs were similarly high among drivers positive to both alcohol and cannabis.

Conclusions The findings of the hospital data and the Coroners reports were consistent with each other in terms of providing confirmation that alcohol is still the drug associated with the greatest level of road trauma on South Australian roads. Furthermore, alcohol was also present in around half of the cannabis cases, and, when present, tended to be present at very high levels. The results of this study emphasise that, although drug driving is clearly a problem, the most important form of impaired driving that needs to be the target of enforcement is drink driving. Roadside drug testing is important but should not be conducted in such a way that reduces the deterrent value of random breath testing.

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Emerging drugs of abuse: current perspectives on substituted cathinones

Subst. Abuse Rehabil. 2014; 5: 37-52;   doi:  10.2147/SAR.S37257

Substituted cathinones are synthetic analogs of cathinone that can be considered as derivatives of phenethylamines with a beta-keto group on the side chain. They appeared in the recreational drug market in the mid-2000s and now represent a large class of new popular drugs of abuse. Initially considered as legal highs, their legal status is variable by country and is rapidly changing, with government institutions encouraging their control. Some cathinones (such as diethylpropion or pyrovalerone) have been used in a medical setting and bupropion is actually indicated for smoking cessation. Substituted cathinones are widely available from internet websites, retail shops, and street dealers. They can be sold under chemical, evocative or generic names, making their identification difficult. Fortunately, analytical methods have been developed in recent years to solve this problem. Available as powders, substituted cathinones are self-administered by snorting, oral injestion, or intravenous injection. They act as central nervous system stimulants by causing the release of catecholamines (dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin) and blocking their reuptake in the central and peripheral nervous system. They may also decrease dopamine and serotonin transporter function as nonselective substrates or potent blockers and may inhibit monoamine oxidase effects. Nevertheless, considerable differences have been found in the potencies of the different substituted cathinones in vitro. Desired effects reported by users include increased energy, empathy, and improved libido. Cardiovascular (tachycardia, hypertension) and psychiatric/neurological signs/symptoms (agitation, seizures, paranoia, and hallucinations) are the most common adverse effects reported. Severe toxicity signs compatible with excessive serotonin activity, such as hyperthermia, metabolic acidosis, and prolonged rhabdomyolysis, have also been observed. Reinforcing potential observed in animals predicts a high potential for addiction and abuse in users. In case of overdose, no specific antidote exists and no curative treatment has been approved by health authorities. Therefore, management of acute toxic effects is mainly extrapolated from experience with cocaine/amphetamines.

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Comparison of the Cozart DDS 801 on-site drug test device and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) confirmation results of cannabis and cocaine in oral fluid specimens

Aust. J. Forensic Sci. 2014; 46(3): 272-281; DOI: 10.1080/00450618.2013.832796

Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) is a problem around the world. The objective of this study is to assess the reliability of the oral fluid screening device the Cozart DDS 801 by comparing the on-site results with confirmatory gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) oral fluid analysis. The study was carried out in Catalonia (Spain) with a sample of 2180 oral fluid specimens taken from subjects suspected of driving under the influence of drugs of abuse, and collected by police officers during 2009–2010. Statistical parameters of the tests were determined for cannabis and cocaine. The sensitivity, specificity, predictive positive value, predictive negative value, likelihood positive ratio and likelihood negative ratio for cocaine were 92%, 90%, 95%, 85%, 9.44, and 0.09 respectively. Sensitivity, specificity, predictive positive value, predictive negative value, likelihood positive ratio and likelihood negative ratio for cannabis were 87%, 86%, 94%, 73%, 6.15 and 0.6 respectively. Accuracy was 91% for cocaine and 86% for cannabis. The Cozart DDS 801 drug test system is a simple to use screening tool for cocaine and cannabis in oral fluid, at initial screening cut-off established by the manufacturer, confirmed with a GC/MS analysis. The system has demonstrated its acceptable performance.

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Driving under the influence, public policy, and pharmacy practice

Journal of Pharmacy Practice October 13, 2014  

Motor vehicle accidents due to prescription drug impairment have increased in the past decade. Typically, impairment is associated with medications causing excessive drowsiness, such as opioids or benzodiazepines, but the scope of driving under the influence (DUI)-drug charges is reaching into medications that are not typically considered impairing, such as antipsychotics, antiepileptics, and mood stabilizers. Data associating medication use with driving impairment are growing, especially with agents not typically thought of as impairing. Forty-three states currently train drug recognition experts who employ a 12-step evaluation to detect the presence of drug impairment. Seventeen states have instituted “per se” laws, which make it illegal to drive with the presence of drugs or metabolites in the body. Pharmacists should recognize an ethical, professional, and perhaps legal responsibility to inform patients of the risk of impaired driving with prescription agents. Pharmacists should reconsider how they are counseling patients on medication impairment and lower their threshold for warning a patient of potential impairment, expanding to agents typically not thought of as impairing. Pharmacists are in a position to ensure that patients fully understand the risk of impaired driving and the potential for DUI prosecution.

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